Tuesday, July 26, 2016

MOVIE REVIEWS # 121: "STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON", "A WAR", "YOUTH", "THE VISIT", "BLACKHAT", "QUEEN OF EARTH", "ACCIDENTAL LOVE", "A WOLF AT THE DOOR", "A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY", "TWINSTERS", "THE RAILWAY MAN", and MORE!

For those of you who pay attention to my Facebook pages and Twitter feed, you might've noticed that I've become slightly more political in some of the things I post. Well, A. I'm trying to post more things there anyway, especially on the blog's FB page, which is here:

https://www.facebook.com/David-Baruffis-Entertainment-Views-and-Reviews-602692689824035/?ref=bookmarks

but also, I'm starting to notice the Polls have suddenly gotten much closer than they should, and I'm not happy with that. Listen, I'm a liberal, progressive, radicalist, more importantly, I'm a Democrat, and yes, I voted for Sanders, or would've had I gone to my state's caucus this year, but does that mean I'm anti-Hillary? Hell, no! Abso-fucking-lutely not. I love Hillary Clinton, in fact I would've voted for her eight years ago, except I thought she was slightly more polarizing than Obama and that he could potentially win a state or two Hillary couldn't, turns out, Obama turned New Hampshire twice, Virginia twice, Nevada twice, Colorado twice, New Mexico twice, and North Carolina and Indiana once, so, I was right there. Other than that, I honestly didn't see much difference between them. I couldn't say that about her and Sanders; he was closer to my ideology, and he had a statistical shot, and even though he loss, fine, the election was skewered against him in more ways than one, but I remember nobody complaining about that when Obama was skewering Hillary votes and delegates eight years ago, so (Blows raspberries) you know what, it's not even a concern. So, she deleted top secret e-mails, (Which ironically, sounds exactly like the kind of e-mails that should be deleted now that I'm thinking about it. Yeah, sensitive information blah, blah, blah, if that's her worst problem and worst lie, I think we're okay people) yeah, yeah, Trump is egomanical asshole who's a lousy businessman and is obsessed with nothing but his own image, which by the way, isn't worth nearly as much as he says it is. He's a two-bit hack reality TV star, and those are the nice things I can say about him. He should never have been a Party's nominee, even the Republican Party, who let's face it, after two Bush's, Sarah Palin, Paul Ryan, Dennis Hastert and about thirty or forty other embarrassments to the human race they've sprouted on the American people in recent years, they've lost all ability to be anything more than a menace to progress. Obama is the greatest President in my lifetime, Hillary is more-than-capable of topping him, but anybody who thinks, "Oh yeah, Trump can't win, the people will correct this eventually", well, I hope you're right, but fuck that, it's time to get angry and really prove and show how worthless he is, and time to make sure everybody knows it. I'm currently thinking about trying to think of a way to provoke him, so if you see any strange and uncharacteristic tweets from me, that are sent directly to @DonaldJTrump that's me, trying to prove just hope egomanical he is, by actually seeing if he, will respond to somebody as unimportant and meaningless as me. He probably won't, but I can't put it past him. Look, I'm keeping track of FiveThirtyEight.com's polls, so, please, please, don't vote third party or any crap like that, (And btw, third parties, if you actually want to be relevant, start trying to run for offices other than President, seriously, and actually start having a real influence, even Sanders, who was a Senator as a Socialist until he ran for President knows this) and vote for Hillary. Trust me, what you'll get is, basically as good, if not better than Obama, 'cause Hillary doesn't put up with bullshit as well as Obama does/has, so she might push through more stuff we need, like perhaps a Supreme Court Justice, maybe. So anyway, call out Trump's lies, all of them, and all the GOP's untruths, in fact beat them over the head with facts the same way they beat their constituents over their head with "Feelings" and whatever other Fox News bullshit the toss, and just remember to vote for Hillary. Vote early and vote often, and keep and eye on the polls, you'll start getting angry too if you see how unnervingly close it's become. And yeah, to answer your question, I'm angry.

And one more thing before I go onto more interesting and fun stuff, yeah, I'm not gonna pretend Hillary isn't a bit shady, she's a Clinton, they know all the angles and how to play them, and that's what I love about all of them, and yeah, I'm not crazy about Debbie Wasserman-Schultz's behavior as DNC chair, and these e-mails are damning and yes, I'm glad she resigned and was kicked out of the DNC, she should've been, but here's the thing, Hillary won fair-and-square. She did. I mean you want to complain about the rules, fine, but they were the rules, and she played it well. And in theory at least, I agree with the system. I love the idea of superdelegates, people with experience, within the party, with respect and knowledge to have a vote that matters separate of just the popularity vote. With the popularity only vote, you get Donald Trump folks. I'm not gonna pretend they're always perfect, but remember they were the ones who put Obama over-the-top in 2008, and nobody complained then that he was stealing the election from Hillary, you shouldn't be complaining now. And even if we did change the system, there's no guarantee Sanders would've won, in fact, he probably would've only lost in a closer race, so what are we talking about here? Seriously, Hillary's amazing, and she wants the job, 'cause she damn well knows she can do it and do it well, and she's right about that. So let's cut this out Democrats, I'm tired of fighting within ourselves, that's not us, that's them and if we keep acting like this, then we get Trump in the White House, so time to shape up, and stop pretending that the few minor lies Hillary told, that most anybody would've told are in comparable to the 75,000 lies Trump says every fucking day, and do what Al Franken said, get to work and get her elected.

(Deep breath) Okay, let's get back to actual entertainment. Um, well, I'm focusing a lot more on television right now than movies, since the Emmys are coming up fast, I'll probably be posting more on that when I can. I did see a couple movies that I didn't get to review. One of them was an old film from 1992, called "Out on a Limb", it's directed by Francis Veber, he's the man who wrote "La Cage aux Folles" originally, and I'm generally not a fan of his work, like "The Dinner Game", which recently got remade as "Dinner for Schmucks", neither version is good, although in that case, I think I barely prefer the original, he also is responsible for "Father's Day", yeah that terrible one with Billy Crystal and Robin Williams, he made "The Toy", the one where the little kid owned Richard Pryor, yeah,-, I don't see the point of him to be honest. I guess, "The Closet", was kinda funny on concept at least. "Out on a Limb" thankfully, is probably his most forgettable and pointless film. It's a mildly-interesting screwball comedy that's mostly remember now as the only film that reunited Matthew Broderick and Jeffrey Jones, he the guy that played the principal in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", among other amazing roles. The Emperor in "Amadeus" for instance, great actor. Also, he's a giant pedophile. No, not kidding, look it up. (Shrugs) Yeah, the more you know... Alright, maybe "giant pedophile", but he's on California sex offender registry and he's has a few incidents with underage boys, I don't know maybe it's a Brian Kinney with Justin kind of thing, so who knows. (Oh, yeah, I've finally gotten around to watching "Queer as Folk", and it's really damn good so far. Wish I had gotten to it sooner)

There's one other movie I want to talk about, it's a movie I was actually gonna write a review for, but it didn't get a theatrical release for some reason, it's called "Chinese Coffee". It was shot in 2000, but didn't get even a DVD release 'til 2007. It was directed by Al Pacino, one of his few directing attempts and was based on the Ira Lewis play, and it's a two-hander with Pacino and Jerry Orbach playing old-time Greenwich Village bohemians who are now in their older age, who's friendship comes apart one late night over a novel that one of them has written about their friendship. Um, it expands the play a bit from, uses a lot of flashbacks for instance, and shows a lot of the scenes that were originally just mentioned in the play, but overall, this was a wonderful film and I definitely hope people seek it out. I'm not exactly sure why it never got a theatrical release, I definitely, especially in 2000, I could see myself considering it to be one of the better films of that year; I enjoyed it immensely, and Pacino and Orbach gave some wonderful performances between them. It's a play, Pacino's done on stage numerous times over the years, and it's a passion project of his, and I can see why. One of those rare films that just fell through the cracks.

Anwyay, this has gone on long enough, let's get to this week's MOVIE REVIEWS! Starting with the Oscar-nominated films, "Straight Outta Compton", "A War" and "Youth"!


STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON (2015) Director: F. Gary Gray

✰✰✰✰



You know what actually kinda gets me about the N.W.A. story, why Easy E? (Jason Mitchell) I mean, why was he the one that Jerry Heller (Paul Giamatti) singled out? I never got that, Like, Dr. Dre, (Corey Hawkins) he's the producer, that would've made sense for him to be singled out by Jerry, so would Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson, Jr., Ice Cube's son [Yeah, his real name is O'Shea Jackson. That seems like a good enough stage name, although I can see changing it.]) or perhaps MC Ren (Aldis Hodge) because they were both main writers/lyricists in the group, but he singled out Easy E for some reason, as the-eh, I guess, focus of the group. The star? The major voice of the group? Eh, I don't know, with all due respect, I just never saw Easy E that way, and kinda was confused by Heller's actions. I mean, yeah, him being both incredibly supportive and protective of the group he signed, to the point of fighting police when they're about to be arrested, and actually caring about the success and well-being or the group, and yet still, screwing them over on royalties, yeah, that I buy, but, why center the focus on Easy E? I guess, one could argue that the former drug dealer was perhaps the most logical person to have some shady business arrangements with but maybe it's also because he was only a small-time drug dealer and only barely an artist who at first only bankrolled the groups' recording sessions but then became a lead rapper/vocalist practically on the fly. Although oddly, the movie offers another strange possibility that Heller just saw Easy E on their first single, "Boyx N the Hood" which was their first single, and presumed he was the main part of the group and for some reason, nobody corrected or even insinuated differently, even after their were posters that had Easy E's name above N.W.A.. I guess it's just an observation I've always had and "Straight Outta Compton" the biopic about the group, doesn't really answer this question, although we don't get Heller's perspective. The movie was produced by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, and MC Ren and DJ Yella (Neil Brown, Jr.) were producers so there's definitely some bias to the film, although that said, I think they did a pretty good job in trying to tell the story as accurate as possible, and that's probably why there's no clear explanation for Heller's, not just actions, but preferences and we have to speculate. I focus on him, because him and Easy E's relationship is the most interesting aspect of the film. The rest, while good is basically a rehash of the fairly well-known history of the group. For those unfamiliar, Niggerz With Attitude, shortened to N.W.A. for obvious reasons were the major underground hip hop act that basically invented gangsta rap as we know it, by simply telling about life as young African-American men in Compton, California, circa, late '80s and early '90s, and yes, this caused a lot of controversy at the time, in particular for their angst against the police force, with songs like "Fuck Tha Police" which they attacked for over-abusing their authority, particular with their racist treatment they receive from them, up to and including graphic and violent abuses of their powers. (Write your own "Black Lives Matter" reference to how shockingly topical this subject is at the moment.) Now, I've never been too appreciative of rap music, in the past; I've often joked about how I'm the last person who's still waiting for this rap trend to die, and a lot of that is a callback to my original feelings on the genre, particularly around this era, and they often started and in many times incited some of the more, just absurdly moronic parts of the genre, not to mention Death Row records and that beyond idiotic West Coast/East Coast war that started in the hip hop magazines and ended with at minimum, two talented young men getting killed. Suge Knight's (R. Marcos Taylor) also shown in the movie and we get a sense of his presence, and some of his more notorious behavior as Dr. Dre tries to strike out on his own by creating the infamous record company. That said, looking back, N.W.A.'s music is definitely one of the shining lights of that era and when you really listen back, the music isn't nearly as, militaristic and anti-authority that people claimed at the time, and then claimed as prophetic after the whole Rodney King/L.A. Riots incidents afterwards. The movie does a really good job in setting, the movie reflects and looks quite similar to era, not only in costumes and dress, but it gets that sense of the uneasy L.A. and the world that N.W.A. came onto the scene with as well as the scene that evolved out of N.W.A. one that seemed destined to confront the world, but not-so-shockingly in hindsight, led to everyone involved becoming far more calmed down and richer than they ever imagined. It seems strange that a crazy mutherfucker like Ice Cube, would one day have a family in a nice place while writing a stoner comedy about, people doing nothing all day. That said, "Straight Outta Compton" feels oddly formulaic and even, dare I say, average.  I mean, it's a good movie, and I guess technically a good music biopic, but I-, I have some concerns over whether it's a great one. Reading Wesley Morris's negative review of the film, I realized he picked up on something I hadn't which was just thrown together some of the exposition in the film was, like a mention of a MTV Wet n' Wild Party that, honestly, if they didn't actually mention that it was that specific party, I'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference between that party and any other party the group seemed to have/be involved with. We're told a lot more about N.W.A. than maybe we're shown, and I mean that in a very, by the numbers point of view. The story pretty much just goes in the order of, "This happened first and this came next, this was here, the Detroit concert was here, than Easy E and Jerry eating lobster was here in Miami, it's-, maybe it's because N.W.A.'s run is so short that their isn't as much to actually focus on; it's like trying to make a movie about the history of the Sex Pistols, only Sid & Nancy didn't die. Okay, Easy E, of course did pass away, but, yeah, it was years after and he passed away of AIDS, not because of the culture of their personalities within the world of the music they transformed the way Biggie and Tupac did. I'm not begrudging Easy E for not getting killed, don't get me wrong, but yeah, comparatively, their impact musically is probably more relevant and profound then the story of their creation, existence and ultimate end. Still though, there's plenty to recommend with "Straight Outta Compton",  the great performances, the music, and of course, the history does need to be documented whether it's as compelling as they would probably wish it were or not. I wish the movie was actually a bit more aggressive itself to match the aggression that the group come out with.  


A WAR (2015) Director: Tobias Lindholm

✰✰✰✰1/2



Danish director Tobias Lindholm in a few short years and films has carved out a nice niche for him making some memorable slice-of-life dramas, that feel utterly realistic. He's more known as a writer at the moment for "The Hunt" and "Submarino", but his 2012 breakthrough as a director, "A Hijacking", about a cargo ship that was boarded by Somali pirates was fascinating, in how it was basically a movie about a hostage negotiation, and spend as much, if not more time in the business and government buildings of Denmark as it did on the actual ship. Now, a similarly-titled film "A War", also seems to be taking the bare bones approach to it's subject. And "A War" is about as bare bones as a film can with a subject as simple as "A War". Hell, until they actually bring up Afghanistan, I wasn't actually sure this was any war in particular. The movie takes place, again like "A Hijacking" the movie takes place half on the battlefield, and half in Denmark, this time, mostly based at the home of the Company Commander Claus M. Pederson (Pilou Asbaek) who by all accounts seems like a reasonable and sensible commanding officer and quite a good soldier at that. At home, his wife Maria (Tuva Novotny) watches over his kids, and not much else. Then, something happens out on one of the patrols, and Claus orders an attack that might maybe he shouldn't have and the results, purportedly is that innocent civilians, including children, were killed. The rest of the movie, is that he goes home, and that's one good thing, but he's got a trial looming, and the possibility of a prolonged prison sentence is looming. The best part of the movie is the actual trial, and I won't give anything away, but it's a really well-done trial and that's the main reason I'm recommending it. It's actually so well-done, and I won't give away the result, but if I had been a judge or jury on the court, I might not have voted the way they did at the end, but that's not a bad thing, it just shows how dire and difficult the numerous different aspects and timings were at play as the dogs of war are all around. The movie earned a foreign language Oscar nomination and I can see why. It's subtle and at times unnervingly slow, but I get the method and the pacing. It's taking the extreme and placing it in the everyday and treating it realistically, brutally so at that. "A War", might be about a specific war, but it hypothetically could've been about any war, and I think that's a benefit of the film. It's not a complex film in it's story, but a complex film emotionally and it's nearly flawlessly executed and the fact that there's not much else to say about the movie is a feature, not a flaw.


YOUTH (2015) Director: Paolo Sorrentino


✰✰✰✰✰




Paolo Sorrentino's "Youth" is a beautiful lyrical movie about two aging artistic geniuses who are both struggling to find desire both in their work and in their lives. Director Paolo Sorrentino has done these very meditative pieces before, there's definitely some Fellini in him, especially here in "Youth", which is, maybe not his but somebody's ideal version of "8 1/2" I presume. I've been more hit-and-miss on him, for instance, I really didn't care for his international breakthrough "Il Divo", that much, but I deeply admired the Oscar-winning, "The Great Beauty" and even moreso, the stranger, wilder and more surreal "This Must be the Place" which is also focused on an aging musician struggling to deal with the past. That one had Sean Penn as a washed-up rock star but here, we get Michael Caine, as a beloved classical conductor, who's long retired, figuratively and literally. In fact, the movie takes place, in one of those vacation resorts that basically exists only for the uber-wealthy and in particular, the uber-famous to get away from the world for awhile, this one's in Switzerland, and Fred Ballinger (Caine) is partially vacationing, partially living at this resort, along with his film director best friend, Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel). Mick is working on a new screenplay with a group of young film school grads, a movie he's calling his "Testament". Meanwhile, Fred is in line to be knighted by the Queen of England, but he continues to refuse the request to come out of retirement to perform his famous "Simple Songs", even though she's basically offering the best in the world for him to come back, he continues to refuse. Also at the resort is Fred daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz) who is her father's business manager, however she just got dumped by Mick's son Julian (Ed Stoppard) who out-of-nowhere announced that he's divorcing her to marry a pop star, Paloma F-, wait really, Paloma Faith (Paloma Faith, playing herself essentially) Oh, wow, I love her music, that's a nice surprise, and she's now lounging around, along with numerous other side characters all around the screen, probably most notably an actor, Jimmy Tree (Paul Dano) who's out hiding and researching a role by, mostly observing life around him, mainly with Mick and Fred, although he meets a couple other people. I've describing plot and story, but the movie doesn't really have one, or it doesn't rely on it anyway. It's a meditative on life and death, and the simple random thoughts these characters have, or actually, it's a movie about what they talk about and to who they talk about it. There's one couple, who actually doesn't talk in fact. Helmut Fornbacher and Heidi Maria Glossner are credited simply as "Silent Husband" and "Silent Wife" and each day, Mick and Fred make a bet at dinner, over whether or not one of the two will ever talk to the other. I'm not sure what they represent, although I've always liked the idea of a couple who love each other and have been together for long enough that they're capable of simply enjoying the silence between them, as they ultimately have said everything they needed to say to each other. That's probably my youthful dreaming however. That's another parallel, the constant conflicting of the young and the old at this resort. It's supposedly a resort paradise that attracts the young and famous but much of the clientele is way past their prime and the ones that aren't are really just hiding from everybody else 'cause nobody young goes there. (Thing of it like Palm Springs is now) The only person who seems to be there who's young and for the joy and the glamour of it all, is the latest Miss Universe winner (Madelina Diana Ghenea, and no, for those wondering, she's just an actress, despite their being more a couple people in the movie playing themselves here) who won the trip as apart of her prize package. I should also point out there's five minute scene or so, where Jane Fonda plays a famous actress who's worked with Mick for most of his career, it's a stunning part for, what is essentially a prolonged cameo. I saw her name show up on more than a few Supporting Actress awards, 'cause she was that good, although I think Caine and Keitel's performances in particular are some of their very best in years. The movie earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song, for "Simple Song #3" which is an aria that gets played at the end of the movie during a concert performance that's sung by legendary soprano Sumi Jo, playing herself also, and it's quite beautiful, although I myself, not that I'm that overly a lover of classical music, but I was a little surprised and stunned by that song's nomination. It is an important song in the movie and it does it's job, but there's quite a bit I would've nominated about the movie before I got to the Song. It's maybe a bit long, but there's a lot to like here, and many different layers and subplots and sub-stories; this is one of those movies that's not afraid to drift away from the main characters for a bit and showcase someone else, or something different, or even show us the characters' dreams, but then it can dive into some great tragi-monologues, Rachel Weisz in particular has a great monologue early in the film, she's playing kind of an interesting role here for her, one that plays to a lot of her strengths now that I think about it. There is a lot going on, there's always something interesting on the screen, and it's one of those movies you can just sit back and relax and sorta drift away into your thoughts and this majestic little temporary vacation of a world, which is kinda what a movie is to begin with. I greatly admire "Youth", I'd definitely say it's Sorrentino's best film yet.


THE VISIT (2015) Director: M. Night Shyamalan

✰✰✰



Well, I did hear that this was the first decent Shyamalan film in years, and yeah, I guess technically it is. I thought it was a pain to sit through, but yeah, sure, I'll give it a pass anyway. M. Night Shyamalan has become notorious in most film circles, it's not necessarily all his own fault, but I-eh, I definitely suspect that he may have convinced himself that his own skills and abilities were slightly greater than they probably were, and that has led to some, um, let's call it questionable films and film choices in recent years. It's interesting that he's rebuilt himself with a straight-up horror movie, I mean, this is, without a doubt a horror film; it even uses the conceit of foun-, well, I about to say found footage, but without giving anything, the footage is not lost in the movie, it's just a first person film though, shot from the perspective of two teenage siblings, Becca and Tyler (Olivia DeJonge and Ed Oxenbould), but here's the weird thing though, he became famous for the horror/thriller genre, with his breakthrough film "The Sixth Sense" and then his two best films, "Unbreakable" and "Signs" (Yeah, "The Sixth Sense" is overrated, and "Signs" is his masterpiece, Yeah, go ahead with your comments on this one, but you're all wrong, "Signs" is easily his best, arguably the best version of "War of the Worlds" ever put on film!) and he's since stayed on that track and mostly has made, not only flop after flop, but really bad film after really bad film. But here's the thing, is he a horror filmmaker? I'm not sure, and I wonder if him being pigeonholed into that genre has hurt him. In fact, one thing I kinda remember liking about Shymalan was how distinctly different his films were, genre-wise. "The Sixth Sense" wasn't horror, it was a psychological thriller, ghost story. "Unbreakable", basically a comic book origin story, and again a psychological thriller. "Signs", like I said, his take on an alien invasion story, it certainly wasn't a usual horror. But, somewhere along the line. He wasn't even beholden to his notorious twist endings, "Signs" didn't have one, many of his other films didn't. Maybe they should've but,...- and here's the thing, he didn't start in horror. In fact, his first two feature films, "Praying with Anger" and "Wide Awake", they're not horror films at all. In fact, they're films about, character finding themselves, they're both about pilgrimages basically, and they had obvious religious undertones to them as well, they were character pieces. That's probably why his best films hold up as well as they do, 'cause they are at some level about characters discovering/finding their old/true selves. Finding out you're a ghost, finding out you're Superman, finding your faith again after following painful grief, that's not in the movies where the characters and running from, Wind, and um, well, I guess "After Earth", was supposed to be about that, but um, yeah, let's just forget that exists. Even "The Village" wasn't about the people finding out they're living out of modern time, it's about us finding out they're living in modern time, which is precisely why that movie is a piece of crap; he lost the character in favor of the narratives or worst, he lost the character angle for the plot twists. So, he's famous for a genre that he only fell into, and then, when he tried to replicate the genre, instead of sticking to his own original themes, he became the laughing stock that he's been ever since, and part of that is the publicity he got, and it wasn't entirely undeserved, but yeah, we jumped the gun on him.

So, what about "The Visit"? Well, like I said, the movie is shot from the perspective of teenagers, the girl, Becca, in particular is one of those young girls who apparently knew right away that she was going to be a film director all her life, and already seems to have learn from a few books what took me, six-digits in student loans to learn,- (Again, I am tired of this trope of teenagers making movies in movies) Anyway, she's out to document a week-long visit her and her brother have to their grandparents' house. Now, they haven't seen/met their Grandparents yet. They're mother, (Kathryn Hahn, who is sadly underused) left them years earlier on bad terms and hasn't had contact with them since. and while their Mother is spending the week on a cruise with her latest boyfriend, Becca hopes this video will help her mother who's time was supposed to heal her, but she hasn't done much healing. (Oh, there's a running bad joke about how Tyler decides to curse using female singers name, Shaymalan, for making half my CD collection curse words, Adele You!) Anyway, they finally meet Nana and Pop Pop (Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie) who, seem like mostly normal old people, but they do exhibit some surprisingly strange behaviors, especially at night. They do work as consulers at a nearby hospital, but they do seem to be suffering from severe symptoms of old age. Incontinence, sundowner's syndrome, etc., and this worries the kids, but soon they wonder if there's more going on with them, and naturally with this being a horror, of course there fucking is. I won't go into what, but let's just say, that for a straight horror-film, I think it works. I wouldn't call it a thriller, I wouldn't call it psychological, but yeah, there's enough character-growth mixed with some of the motifs of the horror genre that I think it combined together well enough to recommend. As to major directors diving into the first-person horror subgenre, I probably personally prefer Barry Levinson's "The Bay", which wasn't a good movie, but was probably a more interesting failure to be entertained by, but I can't say this is a bad film. We've seen Shaymalan at his best and we've seen him at his worst. This is a compromise of somewhere in-between that I can live with.


BLACKHAT (2015) Director: Michael Mann

✰✰



Oh yeah, I watched this didn't I? Well, "Blackhat" is an interesting name, at least film-wise, and much of the movie takes place in the Far East, so that kinda makes sense. For some film theory 101, the terms "White Hat" and "Black Hat" of course, come from American Westerns where typically the good guys wore white hats, and the bad guys wore black hats, because most of the Western worlds associate those colors with good and evil, respectively, but in the Far East, particularly China, the symbolism of those colors are actually reversed typically and the joke was always that Chinese would watch American Westerns and constantly wondered why the bad guys always won. Anyway, old joke, and not really, but still, nice symbolic name, does that have anything to do with the movie?

NO.

Okay, so that went nowhere. Instead, let's talk about Michael Mann. Mann, despite a really inconsistent filmography, I'd say ten years ago, you would hear his name at least come up when discussing the best filmmakers working today, but I rarely hear his name brought up anymore. Which is actually quite unfair, he's done more than enough good projects. "Thief", "Manhunter", his masterpiece "Heat", "The Insider", he also created the TV show "Vegas$" and was a major force behind "Miami Vice" the TV series, and eventually he directed the movie adaptation of that film. "Blackhat" is actually fairly similar to a lot of his films, most of which are mysteries and stories about cops and criminals, this one in particular deals with hackers and cyberterrorism that turns into real terrorism. Hackers are, basically blowing up the world, starting with Hong Kong, and seemingly mostly focused in the Far East, but he's also gone after Chicago, for, um, reasons. The government's of the U.S. and China, represented the majority of the time by Carol and Chen Dawai (Viola Davis and Leehom Wang), unable to combat him, gets the world's best hacker, Nick Hathaway (Chris Hemsworth) out of prison, in order to defeat them. Also along, is Chen's sister Chen Lien (Wei Tang) who spends most of the time either sleeping with Nick or being on the run with Nick after shit hits the fans and they're running around Jakarta searching for Blackhat, which is the name of the terrorist hacker they're after. There are parts of this movie that are quite amazing to look at, like there's some really well-composed scenes, shots and sequences, especially near the end, but the movie is just instantly forgettable even as you're watching it. It's shockingly boring and by the numbers, there's just barely any emotional interest in any of the characters, or for that matter catching whoever's behind the acts. Maybe it's because they're fighting a computer essentially for most of the film, but it's not compelling when humans are onscreen either. It's actually not that different from Mann's "Miami Vice" film, also a movie that was also about a white guy who's moral behavior was questionable, and ended with him threatening to leave with his Asian girlfriend to live off-the-grid somewhere. I liked "Miami Vice" actually, but only so much in that it actually felt like a modern-day take on the series, "Blackhat" doesn't even have familiarity going for it, and yet it feels like every other movie I've ever seen. I'm sure Michael Mann will come back to his best form someday, but this definitely wasn't it.


QUEEN OF EARTH (2015) Director: Alex Ross Perry

✰✰✰



(Confused breathy sigh) Alex Ross Perry. Honestly, I'm not 100% sure what to make of him yet. I first became aware of him last year with his feature "Listen Up Philip" which I barely recommended, in fact until I looked it up, I thought I had actually panned the film outright in my mind. That movie, felt more like a Post-Mumblecore Woody Allen-esque story that, really didn't work that well, mainly 'cause the main character was too whiny, needy, pretentious, and-, I don't know it just, kinda worked, 'cause it felt believable. Well, "Queen of Earth", is, well, I was probably right about the Woody Allen thing, but this film is definitely more reminiscent of Allen's biggest influence, Ingmar Bergman. Very obviously Bergman. In fact, very obviously "Persona"-era Bergman, which is definitely my favorite Bergman. In particular, he seems to have taken one very particular lesson from Bergman, and that is, that the closeup of the human face is the one fascination object the video camera can lay eyes on. Which is true enough, as two films in, I guess the biggest and most common motif of Alex Ross Perry that I can find is that nothing fascinates him more than Elisabeth Moss's face. I can't say that he's wrong to fascinate so much on her, but I can't say that it isn't somewhat jarring that he's almost always in such closeups, there's rarely room for his characters to breathe. Anyway, also similar to "Listen Up Philip" the movie plays fast and loose with time, and in fact, it often flashes back to the year before when Catherine (Moss) was visiting her friend Virginia (Katherine Waterston) at this beach house her family outside of New York, and the movie cuts between, her current visit, after her father passed away and after she found out that her longtime boyfriend James (Kentucker Audley) had been cheating on her. Her father was a famous New York artist and she's also an artist, but after some scandal that's not particularly, overtly expressed, but it involves money, and the screwing people out of it and it led to his suicide. Or, maybe that's the friend's family problems, 'cause it's often insinuate that Virginia's parents weren't on the up-and-up and that some of the neighbors aren't exactly keen on them living near them. Either way, the one thing that's abundantly clear is that Catherine is quickly losing her sense of perspective, and/or her mind. She's particularly worried about a neighbor, Rich (Patrick Fugit) who comes along and that Ginny, which is something Virginia only lets good friends call her, is hanging around and appears to be in a relationship with her friend, which she reads as competing for attention. I think the biggest issue I have with Perry is that, I rarely understand or know why and where his stories lead to, or why they lead where they lead. I guess they don't have to go anywhere and this film is just a profile of somebody going crazy and losing her barrings but if that's the case, then-eh, why all time jumping and why the mess of everything. For instance, a movie that I would compare this film to might be Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia" which also focused on two events at the same location with the same cast of characters, and how they were dealing with certain events and psychoses that they were fighting with, but not only did that movie make it more clear what everybody's issues were, that movie also split the two periods of time, so that we saw one after the other, and I think that would've made this film more effective. Seeing, more of who they were might make us more interested in how they got here, and instead it kinda just seems like he's just confusing the audience by periodically jumping back out of nowhere. It's almost like, he wrote that the character does this and acts like this, and then when he wrote why, he wrote the whole scenes out to explain it and kinda clumsily shoved them in there hoping there's some connection. There is some connection, but much of that is just Perry's style of shooting a movie. He is talented, and I think there's a great movie somewhere in here, I just can't figure out where exactly. Maybe he's kinda like how I panned all of Xavier Dolan's movies until he made "Mommy", 'cause I knew he still had a great movie in him, but, for now, I'm cautiously interesting in Perry's work. I will, he does get some amazing performances out of his actors.


ACCIDENTAL LOVE (2015) Director: Stephen Greene




Wait, wait-a-minute, I'm not reviewing this film, this movie is too old, and I don't have the time or need to devote to-. What?! 2015, no that can't possibly be right, this movie looks like it was made a decade ago! Wait, David O. Russell directed this?! I-eh-um, okay, it does sorta seem like one of his lesser works that failed comedically, but-eh, that's-, no this isn't, give me a second, I gotta look this up. This isn't adding up.

(Searching internet)

Hmm, huh, Richard Roeper's review, what's he got to...
The Story behind "Accidental Love" is weirder and definitely more interesting than the movie itself. Based on a novel by Kristin Gore (Al's daughter) titled "Sammy's Hill," the production was titled "Nailed" when director David O. Russell and the cast assembled for filming in 2008. Production was shut down more than a dozen times when the financial backers failed to make payments on time. cast member James Caan quit the film early on (Russell has a history of run-ins with actors from George Clooney to Lily Tomlin to Jude Law). Russell finally walked away and successfully lobbied to have his name removed from the credits. The patched-together "finished" product was released on VOD earlier this year, and it' s getting a one-show-only showcase at Facets Cinematheque on Friday.

Oh-kay, well, that explains it. And for the record by the way, this happens way more often than people realize, even with some established actors and directors. (Stephen Greene is Russell's "Alan Smithee" alias) Hell, Pacino's "Chinese Coffee" didn't even get a theatrical release. And, yeah that explains pretty much everything wrong with the movie as well. And yes, until I actually checked the release date I was actually just gonna skip reviewing this movie, because, well, to quote Roeper's review again:

As for the movie, it's an unmitigated disaster, not even worth a spin as a curiosity piece.

(Shrugs) Um, yeah. Yeah, there's really not much here. I mean, it's clearly supposed to be one of those old-time screwball comedies, sorta like if Preston Sturgess tried to make "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" but, that's... (Shrugs). It begins with a rollerskating-waitress, Alice (Jessica Biel) who's about to marry the man of her dreams, a local cop named Scott (James Marsdan) until a nail is accidentally shot into her head. Because of this, she's got a shortened life span and for reasons that have since become mostly irrelevant since Obamacare came along, she decides to head to Washington and try to convince her Congressman Howard Birdwell (Jake Gyllenhaal) to stand up for her and others who come along and help them get healthcare for reasonable things, like a nail stuck in your head. Needless to say, the most sensible thing in the movie is the fact that she then has sex with him, as the nail in her head triggered her, um-slut reflex. "I'm a nail slut", she utters in the movie's only memorably funny line. How this eventually involves, girl scouts and the Majority Whip's (Catherine Keener) plan for a military base on the Moon, no, not kidding, and-, eh, I don't remember, 27 other ridiculous things that might sound funny in a decent Upright Citizen's Brigade sketch or something, but yeah, this is a mindless mess of a barely-a-movie, that probably wouldn't have been funny eight years ago. I get the sense there probably was a decent satirical idea here at one point, the era of it's satire has passed, and even if it was around the time, it really isn't executed that well, and I know this is a tough genre to pull off and I admire the attempt, but obviously this was a doomed attempt to begin with.


A WOLF AT THE DOOR (2015) Director: Fernando Colmbra

✰✰✰✰



"A Wolf at the Door" begins with a mother, Sylvia (Fabiula Nascimento) picking up her daughter, only to find that, somebody's already picked her up who she doesn't know. First scene. My natural instinct would be, a long investigation going into, who took the little girl, and why and there is an investigation, but no, this movie goes somewhere else. You see, there's a couple different kinds of mysteries, most famously the "Whodunit", where the story is about the investigation into who did the crime, this is the most traditional one, the second more non-traditional one is called the "Howcatchem" where we know who did the crime right from the beginning and the mystery is about how the detective character eventually catches the person who committed it; think "Columbo" as a "howcatchem" mystery. "A Wolf at the Door" is, neither of those, although it seems like it could be both at certain points. No, what it actually is, is a "Whydidit". a mystery about, why somebody committed the crime. This is remarkably difficult to pull off. Now, it's not difficult to come up with a motive, but a "WhyDidIt' is where the main focus of the mystery, is about seeking out the reason why the culprit committed the crime. In this case, the culprit, and it doesn't take that long to find out who it is, is Rosa (Leandra Leal) a young woman who was a friend of Sylvia, but more importantly, was a mistress to her husband Bernardo (Milhelm Cortaz). Now much of the rest of the film is in flashback, although it's often seen from different points of view and which perspective is more accurate and truthful is not necessarily apparent until were well into the film. It's a bit of a "Rashomon" tale actually, although, and since I happen to be watching it at the same time, it actually felt and reminded me for most of the movie of the Showtime series "The Affair". (Which, I'm only starting to watch, but anybody have thoughts on that show, 'cause I'm only beginning and I'm not 100% sure so far on it, but anyway.) The movie is the debut feature from Fernando Colmbra and despite a very limited U.S. theatrical run, he got a DGA nomination for Best First Feature, and it's quite a unique and skilled first feature. Not perfect by any means, there's some stylistic ideas that I'm not 100% sure worked, there's a lot of closeup of focused shots, closeup mostly of characters who seem to be behind something attuned to prison bars and the movie gets pulled into, what seems like a story about the romance between Rosa and Bernardo, but that's only on the surface. I will not give away the more shocking parts of the movie that make things much clearer about why Rosa kidnapped their daughter and what happened to her, not that it justifies what happened, but they do help you understand why she did it. Leandra Leal by the way, gives a very powerful performance in this role, and so does Milhelm Cortaz, but Leal, is probably more the lead character although only slowly does the movie reveal to us that fact. "A Wolf at the Door" reminds us that, all actions have consequences, and only the arrogant think otherwise until it's too late, and also that a mystery film can still surprise you, even when you know there's only a few possible suspects and ways that this story can end and that's not just because of the execution of the storytelling, but the way the story was told. It legitimately kept me guessing, until the brutal truth was revealed. Between this and "The Second Mother", their foreign language Oscar submission, Brazil had a quite good year for films in 2015 it seems.


A BRAVE HEART: THE LIZZIE VELASQUEZ STORY (2015) Director: Sarah Bordo

✰✰✰



I'm, honestly, not really sure where to start with this one. I mean, I can take the direction of most of the critics' party line and bring up the vivacious good-hearted nature of the focus of the documentary, 'cause the movie, basically just focuses in on that, and I can't blame the movie entirely, but, this is another one of those documentary films where I wonder if it wouldn't have been better perhaps as a short. "A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story", showcases, Lizzie Velasquez. Who is she? Well, currently she's a famed motivational speaker and Youtube creator, who still keeps up her Youtube page, the link is below and it's still extremely popular, some of her biggest videos :

https://www.youtube.com/user/lizzitachickita

and she's one of the biggest anti-bullying advocates out there. She's also famously been called, on an infamous Youtube video, the Ugliest Woman in the World. Is she? (Long pause) Uh-um, I-eh, (sigh) um, I-, yeah, there's no getting away from this, she's not easy to look at. Now, of course, she's beautiful on the inside, way more, than, say I am, but-, I wouldn't call her ugly, I would however wonder, what the problem was, and yes, she has problems, and even worst for most of her life she didn't know what her problems were. She was born, essentially early, and with too much skin to her body, which they thought she might able to grow into, but here's the thing, she isn't capable of gaining weight. According to her wikipedia page, she weighs 64 pounds, at her biggest, and has all her life, and yes, that is the most disturbing thing about her appearance. I've posted a photo from the movie of her face, but yeah the scariest part about her appearance honestly is how thin and tiny she is, my most natural inclination when I see her is to shove a Baskin-Robbins store or two of ice cream down her throat. She's spent most of her life, getting tests and being in and out of hospitals trying to someone figure out a diagnosis for her condition. The most probably diagnosis, and I'm checking Wikipedia to make sure I get this right, they suspect is a form of something called Neonatal Progeroid System which, well Progeria or Progeroid System is, and I'm simplifying greatly is an aging genetic disorder that mimics physiological aging. Her condition, on top of the extra skin she had at birth, caused her to be blind in her right eye and her left eye is heavily vision-impaired as well. I'm not sure where or how the severe overbite came from, but she's also suffered numerous injuries over the years. At one point they had to break her toes, so they could be extended, and they inserted nails in to stretch them out, and then remove the nails after they healed and grown out, and I think she mentioned that her heels are also full of nails now. The amazing thing is that she's overcome so much of it, and purportedly as long as she's relatively healthy and watches her heart, yeah, her heart's got some problems also affected by the syndrome, she should be fine and live a full life, and she's also done a great job overcoming most of her deficiencies and achieved many of her career goals. She was actually popular in high school after some early tough times where she was bullied and picked up. but once the students were able to understand her condition, they took to her warmly. She was even a teenager. And then, the video surfaced of her on Youtube. She never found out exactly who posted it, and I tried to find if the original video was still on Youtube and it might be, but I didn't find it, at least not in the first few searches for "Ugliest Woman in the World Lizzie Velasquez" and mostly I found, clips of her or other Youtubers talking about her and how wonderful she is. Occasionally she shows up on a few strange oddities list, but nothing harmful, although I didn't check any of the comment sections. Thankfully nobody's said anything as harmful to me in any of my comment sections, at least none that I can remember. We do see a glimpse of her life, her going to her TED talk, her campaigning on the Hill for an Anti-Bullying Bill, that amazingly hasn't been passed yet, she's worked with, numerous celebrities and charities, including Hillary Clinton. As for the film, I wasn't as enthralled with the more inspirational aspects of the film, although I did appreciate the few insights into her that we had, including a scene late with her and her family, finally getting a diagnosis. I guess, there's no harm in the film, so I'm recommending it, I just wonder, as amazing a person as Lizzie Velasquez is, whether or not she was enough for there to be a complete documentary, that's what I wonder most. I think this would've been better as a short doc, but for what it is, it's worth watching.


TWINSTERS (2015) Directors: Samantha Futerman and Ryan Miyamoto

✰✰✰✰1/2



Okay, you see this film, this is how you take a fairly slight or possibly unsubstantial-enough-for-a-full-documentary subject, and then turn it into a full, complete and entertaining documentary. I mean, I know there are people who wonder when I give lukewarm or even straight-up negative reviews to documentaries because I argue that there's not a deep or rich enough subject matter to maintain a full documentary, even if that subject matter is, for all-intensive purposes someone or some thing that's so angelic and/or inspirational that I almost feel guilty or shameful for not recommending a movie about them, even though, for all-intensive purposes, I wasn't entertained by the film. I did it last review with my barely passing review of "A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story", and I've done it multiple times over the years, even long before I was writing blogs regularly. I mean, I get it, some people are actually that saintly, that you really basically have to cover and portray them as though they were living, breathing saints, I know there's people like that out there, but that doesn't make a film about them compelling; hell it almost automatically makes the movie uninteresting, because, well, they're so goddamn saintly there's nothing interesting or fulfilling about them. Let's face it, the sinners are much more fun and only the good die young. (Why, do I keep quoting songs lately? God, that's like three times in my last two batches of reviews,-, I really am not intending to be doing that) Meanwhile, here's "Twinsters" a movie that, based on the logline alone, I might've thought, "Yes, this might be a fun little short, but is it enough to engage me for a feature film?", but yes, this movie is strikingly rich and engaging. Also, ironically, just like "A Brave Heart..." the movie has a great deal to do with the internet and even more specifically, Youtube. The movie begins with a beautiful young actress, Samantha Futerman, who also co-directs the movie. She was born in South Korea, and was adopted by a family in America as has been performing in some way for much of her life. Checking her IMDB page, I find that I've actually been watching much of her since the beginning of her film career, when she made her feature film debut in a delightful little independent film called "The Motel", almost ten years ago, and since then, you might have seen her in several television shows, most recently "Kroll Show" or in featured roles in stuff like "Memoirs of a Geisha", "Going the Distance", "21 & Over", "Man Up"..., a few other things. She's also done some short films here and there that have been shown online, including a particularly noteworthy one where her character is shown constantly punching guys in the dick. It was pretty funny, and she started getting Facebook messages and emails from France, who claimed she looked exactly like a friend of there's. Normally, she probably intended to dismiss the claims, but then she looked up the girl, and the resemblance was startling. She also, had the same birthdate as she did, and was born in South Korea, and was adopted shortly after her birth. Her name is Anais Bordier, and she's a fashion designer from France who was currently working/going to school in London. They soon start talking and become fast friends over Skype, and each others friends and families, have trouble believing what they're seeing. Now, I have known identical twins who look quite a bit like each other, I have an Uncle for instance who's a twin, but for some reason I've always been able to tell them apart personally, but-uh, yeah, imagine you didn't grow up with a twin and suddenly somebody shows up who looks, pretty much exactly like you. That's basically what these two twinsters begin to deal with. First they have to make sure they're twins, so they send off their DNA to confirm it, which they send to the scientists who do the major studies on twins, who are naturally very interested in them and their story, and yes, they confirm their DNA, despite some inconsistencies in their birthing records, they are indeed identical twins, who were separated at birth and found themselves living on separate continents. The movie is rather unique as well, as it's actually shot, pretty much as the events are taking place. They detail online the connections, they, (Although mostly Samantha) record the Skype interviews, along with her friend, who's recording as they record on Skype and then they travel and have their first nervous meeting between two sisters who never knew they the other existed, and then they reconnect later in the States..., it's actually surprisingly heart-warming, seeing these two souls finding out about each other, and seeing how similar and how strikingly different they are. While they're both in creative fields, Samantha for instance grew up in a fairly loving neighborhood and family that including two siblings, and is more expressive, while Anais, was an only child and in France, was slightly more ostracized for being a Korean adoptee and always felt a slight shame about her heritage and is far more introverted. They both finally make their way to Korea, to look up their records and whatever else they can find about their birth mother, who they're told is not interested in meeting up with them. They're actually big news as word of this social media story had broke and the story of two daughters of South Korea returning home made headlines. They do find the foster mother they both lived with at one point, who can remember their life when they were barely toddlers. It's unclear how or why they were inevitably separated, we can probably imagine the scenarios better than the facts would help us anyway. This is a movie about two interesting people who find each other and eventually learn about each other's, and through their learning, we learn about them, and it takes a subject that could've just barely been an interesting segment on a bad talk show for fifteen minutes, and makes it a fun, human and entertaining special interest story, one of those few special interest stories that are actually special. I really had fun watching "Twinsters" and seeing these two girls; I can't wait to see what happens to them, both career-wise and personally. Hell, I wouldn't mind seeing new movies about them every couple years to see where they're at in life and how well they've connected or if they remain connected, stuff like that. Inventive filmmaking plus a subject that's actually able to grow and expand and filmmakers that are willing to put themselves out there and alone the story to evolve naturally and grow, that's the stuff of wonderful documentaries, even ones that are rather small and insignificant like this one is, at least on the surface.


THE RAILWAY MAN
 (2014) Director: Jonathan Teplitzsky

✰✰1/2



Okay, "The Railway Man", um, I get what they were trying to do, but...-, okay so the story begins with our main character, Eric (Colin Firth), who's a railway enthusiast, which is different from a train enthusiast, somehow, and he's pontificating about a recent meet cute he had while having to take an irregular train detour due to some cancellations. The meet cute, is Patti (Nicole Kidman) and he says that he believes he's in love with her, and decides to meet her up at the next station she knows she'll be at, and soon, they're awkward but touching little romance starts. Then at around the ten minute mark of the movie, Eric begins having severe traumatic flashbacks from thirty-plus years earlier, and suddenly this little romance turned into a war movie and I feel like I've been baited-and-switched. I mean, I know what they're trying to do, but boy does it not work. Basically, they're trying to-, well, they're trying to speed up the romance, to the point where we see their first meeting or two and then, happily ever after, so they can get right to the-, well, usually this happens in horrors or thrillers, here the horrifying part is flashback to WWII. You see, this idea can work, where you just introduce the romance and then they're in love, "Gaslight", "Spellbound" comes to mind, but those are movies where the dynamic of the film is based around the romance that's established, this seems established because...-, um, because...-, well, because they had to establish it. The movie is instead about the trials that Eric suffered while a POW at a War Camp in Burma after the fall of Singapore. As a soldier, (Jeremy Irvine) he's put through some particularly gruesome tortures, many of them by a Japanese soldier, Takeshi Nagase (Tanroh Ishida), and it's haunted him all his life. Even his fellow POW, Finlay (Stellan Skarsgard) even warns that his experiences are worst than normal. This leads Patti to do something to help her new lover get over these horrors, and she finds out that Takeshi is still alive, (Hiroyuki Sanada), and he doesn't live too far away, and this leads to, well, I think that's what the movie is really about, so I won't go into it, but it could've been an interesting story between them if they framed it that way. Instead, the movie is really this chaotic mix of flashbacks and flash forwards, and flipping back and forth between them. This is the other really probably with the way the story begins, I mean, other than the fact that Nicole Kidman is really wasted in this barely a part, is that it doesn't really establish the main character to begin with, other than, he meets the girl, has a train/railway fascination, and then, he starts having PTSD. There's no character there to care about to begin with. I mean, even if they focused, like thirty minutes developing the character, this movie might've worked, but we're supposed to care about these characters so fast that there's no way to get a connection. This is the second film from Director Jonathan Teplitzky that I've seen since his debt feature "Better than Sex" which is strange, 'cause that film was literally only about it's two main characters and us getting to know them. Of course he wrote that one, this one is based on a novel and a true story, which to me, either means the novel only also, glances over the relationship with his wife, or the screenwriters just thought to skip over it 'cause they thought it wasn't interesting, or something like that. I haven't read the book, but I'd guess it's the latter, and there's like, five chapters or something of a longer tale that's only the first ten minutes of this movie, that's what it feels like, especially with Nicole Kidman in such a prominent role that's barely there, that really makes little sense, so I bet there's a lot of this movie on the cutting room floor.


TORA! TORA! TORA! (1970) Directors: Richard Fleischer; Japanese Footage: Kinji Fukusaky and Toshio Musada

✰✰✰1/2



I gotta confess that I'm been avoiding this film to some extent over the years. I don't normally do that, but I've been sort of evading this film consciously and unconsciously over the years. I've missed TV screening, I've had copies of it, but haven't watched it, I've struggled to get copies of the film in recent years to watch it, and even as I was putting the film in, I was partially dreading it. Not only because it's a feature film that's about the attack on "Pearl Harbor', which is a subject that doesn't necessarily have a great recent track record when it comes to film. Also though, it's a long Hollywood military epic, which in of itself isn't a real problem, those sprawling David Lean-style monstrosities of epics, I don't hate those necessarily, many of the greatest movies of all-time are like that, but there's a reason you rarely hear "Tora! Tora! Tora!" listed among them. For one thing, this movie was made in 1970, there's a certain point, and I can't quite tell exactly when it is, but that classical Hollywood style of filmmaking, after a certain date when it's still being shot in that style where I think it's difficult to believe a film looking and seeming like that. "The Great Escape", is probably the last great one on the borderline, and that was '63, I believe, I guess there's something like "The Man Who Would Be King" after both these films that's technically still a real good film, but that came out the same year as "Taxi Driver", and yeah, when you look it's contemporaries, I definitely believe there are certain film that were made in different eras that look totally out of place. You don't see it that often now, 'cause everything from film to digital is available to use and the way we shoot even subgenres like war movies has evolved so much that you don't really see them shot this way anymore, and 1970 is one of those years where the transition from the old Hollwood glamour big budget intermission extravaganza were just on the borderline of becoming extinct in favor of the more gritty '70s style of film making favored by the Film School Generation of filmmakers. 1970 was also the year of "M*A*S*H" and the movie that won the Best Picture Oscar that year, "Patton". "Patton", is one of those transitional movies where it does kinda fit, although you should note that that's probably because it's writer was Francis Ford Coppola and two years later he'd make "The Godfather", but anyway, every time, I've tried to get into "Tora! Tora! Tora!" as much as there is some great skillful film-making, including some great practical and visuals effects, it's one of those movies I watch, and mostly spend half the movies looking at how it's always 100% clear that every indoor scene is shot on a soundstage somewhere. (I get the same feeling every time I try to sit through Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments", the popular one they air every Easter, that movie,- I'm really amazed people sit through that every year and I don't get why. For one thing, DeMille already made a better "The Ten Commandments" in the silent era and that one actually looks like it takes place in Egypt, [And doesn't take 40 days and nights to watch the fucking thing]) Anway, so how does, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" hold up in that mindset, a impressive film with an out-of-date style and conceit and a subject matter that's again, important historically but not actually that interesting or compelling when it comes to a story worthy of a film? Actually, it holds up okay. I'll recommend it, it's got enough to keep me interested. It's definitely second-second tier of these kind of movies, and I'd probably only recommend it if you've seen most of the others before. (Although you can skip "Doctor Zhivago", that one's overrated as all hell.) That said, it's actually quite a well-done movie. Purportedly, everything that happens in the movie is completely true to the events preceding and on December 7th, 1941, and probably the true saving grace of the film is two-fold, one, it gets into the really minute details of the attack, especially on the Washington side, who had people ignore confirmations, had telegram warnings sent that were delayed, and at one point, President Roosevelt wasn't even allowed by his Generals to hear/read reports of translated orders from Japan as they made their way up and down the South China Sea, and also, the movie shows the Japanese perspective. The movie listed three directors, Fleischer, who directed the American footage, and two Japanese directors to direct the Japanese footage, most notably Kinji Fukusaku, who's probably most known in America for "Battle Royale" (Ironically another film that strangely looked like it was made ten years before it actually was, although that was the least of the problems with that film.) I can buy that the history is accurate and for the most part, while it is a bit of a slow frustrating watch as it heads towards, well, the inevitable, for all it was trying to, "Tora! Tora! Tora!" probably succeeded way better than it should've. It's well-acted all-around, and yeah, I think I probably would've appreciated the film more if it was made, maybe even ten years earlier, but it did get made, and it goes into every aspect of the Pearl Harbor attack on both sides that you probably reasonably could've. Perhaps, I could see somebody telling this story again, with a more modern eye for cinema, maybe Terence Malick or Clint Eastwood especially, I bet he could do that, Hell, he kinda already did with his "Flags from Our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima" films, and I thought quite a bit about "Letters..." while watching "Tora!...", so there's definitely ways this can work better, but overall this is pretty good for the time.






Post a Comment